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County chooses not to bump library funding

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Parker County’s newly-adopted budget does not include increased funding for the Azle Memorial Library or the Springtown Public Library.

The budget, adopted with a 5-0 vote on Aug. 31, dropped 1.8 cents from the overall tax rate for a total rate of $0.383806 cents per $100 valuation -- or $383.81 cents on a $100,000 home – former Parker County Judge Mark Riley, who retired Aug. 31, said in a news release.

The budget did not include any increased funding for “outside agencies,” including libraries, Riley said at an Aug. 21 budget workshop.

At that budget workshop, Precinct 1 Commissioner George Conley made a motion to increase Azle Memorial Library’s (AML) funding by $5,000, which was seconded by Precinct 3 Commissioner Larry Walden.

Given that 40 percent of AML’s customers come from Parker County, Conley said he thought the county should give more money to the library.

“We give Azle $4,410, and Springtown gets $15,930. Especially the Azle library, their funding is extremely low for what they do for Parker County and that area,” Conley said.

AML has historically received less funding than other Parker County libraries because the city is split between Parker and Tar-rant County, Riley said.

“It was based on the percentage of Parker County vs. Tarrant County people. That’s how that discrepancy first started when it came up umpteen years ago,” Riley said. “That’s how that’s always been. Maybe that gap has been closed.”

Precinct 4 Commissioner Steve Dugan said that several “good organizations” had requested more money from the court this year, and they couldn’t grant every request.

“We’ve got four libraries asking for money and some other nonprofits asking for money. They’re all good organizations,” Dugan said. “But we have obligations, mandated by the state, in terms of what we’re required to take care of.

“Sometimes when you’re rebuilding a house, you have to build the front first and save up to rebuild the back next year. With the amount we’re spending on salaries, new employees and equipment, we’re taking care of our mandates first. I’d rather wait to rebuild the back of the house until we’ve saved up.”

Riley, Precinct 2 Commissioner Craig Peacock and Dugan voted against the motion, which caused it to fail.

Azle Memorial Library Director Curran McLane, who asked the court for an increase, said she was disappointed in the decision but appreciative of the county money the library receives.

“I am disappointed that the Parker County Commissioners Court did not vote to increase library funding for fiscal year 2019,” she said. “However, we are still appreciative of the $4,410 they continue to provide to our library.

“The city of Azle will continue to provide the best possible library services to the public, including Parker County residents. I sincerely hope the commissioners court will vote to increase funding in the future”.

At a July budget workshop, McLane said that while the library is supported by city funding and the Azle Library Trust, increased county funding is needed to effectively serve patrons.

“We’re the second-largest library in the county, and we have a significant number of patrons,” McLane told the court. “We see about 2,300 visitors a month. Our doors are constantly opening and closing, and it’s people from all over the county.”

The court gave $4,410 to AML last year, an average of $1.30 per active patron, according to the funding request submitted by AML.

McLane requested Azle’s funding be increased to match the per patron amount the Weatherford Public Library received last year: $18,564, or $5.50 per patron.

The majority of active AML patrons – more than 40 percent - come from Parker County, but they do not live inside the Azle city limits, according to the funding request.

Springtown Public Library Director Katherine A. Crabtree did not ask for increased funding during her presentation, but pointed out that the $16,000 of the library’s $ 117,156 budget for 2017-18 was funded by the county.

Nearly 78 percent of the library’s patrons are from Parker County, Crabtree said, and rely on its resources.

“The cost of books, our library supplies, our utilities – the cost of everything goes up,” she said. “We appreciate the funding you give us, because it helps us keep up.”

We’ve got four libraries asking
for money and some other nonprofits sking for money. Th y’re all good organizations. But we have obligations, mandated by the state, in terms of what we’re required to take care of.
Steve Dugan,

Parker County Commissioner on court’s denial of additional library funding